Friday, November 20, 2009

On the Blink of Extinction

These days, I try not to blink. Because I’m scared that, if I do, it’ll be New Year’s Eve, and there’s no way in hell that I’m ready for that yet.

Someone needs to tell me: How could it possibly be the end of the year already? Where did 2009 go? I actually remember it just being 1999. Back then – and excuse me if I sound like my grandmother – everyone was really excited about the year turning 2000. Y2K was on everyone’s mind. No one wanted to fly on New Year’s Eve just in case, when the clocks struck midnight, all the computers shut down, and Superman can only be in so many places at the one time.

Imagine if all the computers shut down today. Half the world’s population would drop dead from instant Facebook deprivation.

I started 2009 with so much hope and promise. There were so many projects I wanted to do. It was such an exciting time, though Amanda later pointed out that it was probably the champagne breakfast that made everything look so glossy and rosy.

“I’m going to brush up on my French,” I said on 1 January.
“Oooh, mais oui?” Saffy cooed. “Well, I’m going to lose three kilos! I am determined to fit into my skinny jeans again!”
“I’m going to find a boyfriend who adores me!” Amanda sighed blissfully.

Twelve months later, I can barely count to ten in French while Amanda is still wasting her time with the Cockroach, her long time on-again, off-again insectile looking boyfriend. “This is so incredibly depressing,” she said recently, her luxuriant hair vibrating with anger and missed opportunities. “Why am I still with that incredible loser? Why am I not working this out? I must be missing something. Because, seriously? I deserve a whole lot better. I’m beautiful, goddammit! And this kind of crap does not happen to beautiful people!"

To which Barney Chen posted on Amanda’s Facebook wall: “Oh yes, it does. Just look at Madonna!”

Meanwhile, Saffy…Well, let’s just say, it’s not looking so good in Saffyland.

She wandered into my room the other day, her face white as snow. “It’s not possible,” she breathed quietly. “How did I put on an extra two kilos? I’m supposed to lose three, not put on another two!”
“Well, you have been going to a few parties.”
“But I don’t ever eat anything at those parties. I just drink the free booze!”

I didn’t have the heart or nerve to tell her in person, so I went onto Google and emailed her several links to articles detailing the calorie count of your average Cosmopolitan, and gin and tonic.

This morning, Saffy announced that from now till January 1, she’s not eating any solids. “I’m just going to drink water and eat celery sticks,” she said with the kind of grim determination you normally associate with people who are about to get a face-lift and tummy tuck.

Amanda pulled a face. “Celery sticks? Why celery?”

“Because they have no calories in them. Apparently, you use up more calories just chewing them. So, it’s a win-win situation,” Saffy said. There was a haunted look in her eyes.

Not so random memory: When we were kids, the new year was such a magical event. In my books, it was way better than Christmas. Because somehow, in the space of seconds, we left behind the present. Yesterday, last week, last month, two seconds ago, last night…all these events suddenly, magically, became something called “last year” at the stroke of midnight. It was the coolest trick.

But marking the passing of another year is cool only when you’re five and the days seem so much longer. These days, I wake up, stumble into the bathroom, blink, and it’s the end of the day, and I have no idea what I’ve done all day. And increasingly, it seems to me that it’s not just the days that are disappearing without a trace; it’s also the years. At this rate, I’m going to be wearing adult nappies, hooked up to a respirator and eating jelly because no one can find my dentures.

“And the last words you hear won’t be ‘Good night, see you tomorrow’ but ‘Switch him off!’” Amanda said grimly.
Saffy says she doesn’t care if those are the last words she hears. “As long as I’m thin and can fit into my skinny jeans, you can say whatever you want to me just before I croak it!”

So no, I’m not looking forward to New Year’s Eve. I’m not ready. Which is why I’m not blinking.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Facing Facts

So after the longest time of holding out, I’ve finally succumbed to the Dark Side, otherwise known as Facebook.

“I don’t need to stay in touch with 500 people I don’t know,” I would tell anyone who asked. “I have trouble staying in touch with the two people I already live with!”

“Please don’t tell anyone you’re touching me!” Saffy SMS’d me once.

But one rainy Sunday, when there was nothing on television and I’d already read my latest copy of 8DAYS from cover to cover, I found myself signing up for a Facebook account. Just to see what the fuss was all about. And also because you know something is not quite right with the universe when your mother emails to ask why you’re not on Facebook.

People must have installed some kind of a ‘Jason is now finally on Facebook!’ alert, because within minutes, messages began popping up on my screen. Many, from people I’d not seen or heard from for years. And quite a few from what I was convinced were complete strangers, possibly stalkers or potential mass murderers looking for fresh new victims.

Surely they couldn’t have been waiting for me to sign on, I wondered.

“Wah, what took you so long?” Melinda Goh wrote.

I sat for a while wracking my brain trying to remember who the hell Melinda Goh was. Absent mindedly, I clicked on the ‘Confirm’ as friend button, figuring I’ll work it out eventually. Later that night, after watching ‘Single White Female’ on DVD, I got up out of bed, logged onto Facebook and removed Melinda Goh.

“I can’t believe you’re actually on Facebook! Welcome!” Jenny Tan fluted across the internet.

“Post something on your Wall!” Darren instructed.

I stared at the screen a bit longer. And then picked up the phone.

“I don’t know what to say on my Wall!” I said to Saffy.

“Hang on, I’m coming to your room,” Saffy said as she opened my bedroom door, a little breathless from the exercise of walking 15 feet. She flopped down in the chair next to me. “Really, how you ever evolved from a tadpole, I’ll never know. Just say anything!”

“Like what?”

“Just say, ‘Sunday blues’ and then hit ‘Share’!”

“And what would that do?”

Saffy’s bosom deflated. Obviously, I was a lost cause. “You don’t have to do or say anything meaningful!” she sighed. “Facebook is just an excuse for people to waste time and be sociable! It’s sharing whatever is going on with you right now. I just posted a YouTube link about a Rottweiler puppy with the hiccups.”


“I thought it was cute. It’s just like a diary where you record things that interest you, or just reflect your state of mind at the time. Only all your friends get to read about it.”

“And that’s fun?” I asked.

“Sometimes, it’s better than sex,” Saffy replied firmly. “Ooh look, there’s your mother! She’s got a lovely profile picture! All that bling! Let’s see how many friends she has,” she said, her fingers clicking expertly over the keyboard. “375!"

My sister wrote to me (on email) saying that it was really depressing that our 60 year old mother had more friends than her three children combined. I replied it was really depressing that I still hadn’t posted anything on my Wall besides ‘Sunday blues’ which generated 35 comments, most of which ranged from the inane (‘Ya, me too!’) to the positively imbecilic (‘Sunday got colour, meh?’). That last one was from Melinda Goh, before I removed her from my friends list.

My cousin David posted a picture of a traffic jam that he was stuck in. I commented that I hoped he had both hands on his steering wheel, and as soon as I hit ‘Share’, I realized how much that made me sound like my naggy Aunt Carla. I spent the next day tortured that I should have included a smiley face in my comment.

I somehow wonder if I’ve missed the boat on Facebook. I still don’t get it. All my friends seem to spend their whole lives on it. I was at a dinner the other evening and Mike would whip out his Blackberry every time a course arrived and tap on the keyboard for a few seconds. After a while, I asked, “You’re not Facebooking this dinner are you?”

“Please,” he said, sounding just like Simon Cowell. “Facebook is so yesterday. No, I’m Tweeting!”

Just what I need: another stupid social networking tool I have to learn and then abandon two seconds later. Call me a tadpole, but I think I’m going back to posting letters.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fatal Attraction

Anyone who’s been a date recently will know that it’s a cruel, vicious world out there. If you thought the slave gladiators fighting the lions in the Coliseum had it rough, you’ve not had to deal with the pain, humiliation and sheer nervous stress that come from spending a few hours with someone you like. And might possibly like a lot more if he/she would only agree to go on a second date with you.
It’s especially worse for women. For some reason, bum dates just seem to wash off men. It must be a superior genetic code encoded in our DNA that was left over from our cave days. “Bad day hunting for a mate? Not to worry, just go across the valley and club one over the head and drag her back by the matted hair. Oh, and while you’re at it, can you bring back another mammoth? We’re running low for winter. Cheers, darling!”
But give a girl a bad date and she falls to pieces.
“Why hasn’t he called?” Saffy screamed the other night. It was a full 48 hours after her first date with the delightfully named Bip Lim. Which, as Amanda pointed out, was not unexpected. “You can never trust someone whose name sounds like a Korean appetizer,” she said firmly.
Apparently, Saffy’s trolley had crashed into Bip’s in the spice section of Cold Storage. She took the location of the first meeting as a good sign. He was, according to Saffy’s breathless description, tall, well built and impossibly handsome.
“He’s an ABC!” Saffy said, her eyes shining. “Do you know how rare it is to find an unattached ABC in this town?”
“Sorry, is that Australian or American?” Amanda asked.
“American! He’s incredibly sexy. Have I said that already?” she Skyped Barney Chen who immediately asked if she was sure Bip didn’t bat for the other team: “Because in my considerable experience, ABC men who are tall, well built and impossibly handsome are…well, me!”
Saffy replied that the entire time they were chatting in the supermarket, his eyes were glued to her breasts. Amanda pointed out that meant nothing, adding, “Arthritic dogs can’t take their eyes off your breasts. I sometimes can’t take my eyes off your breasts!”
I really don’t need to tell you the rest of the story. If you’ve ever been on a date, you’ll know the scenario by heart. But for those of you innocents out there who still believe in fairy tale romances, sit up and pay attention to these cheat notes because you’re going to need them one day.
Bip asked Saffy out on a date. She spent the next week in a state of extreme sexual tension. She bought a new dress and borrowed Amanda’s Jimmy Choos and Bottega handbag. She had a facial, manicure, pedicure and a head to toe Dead Sea mud body exfoliation. Four days before the date, she stopped eating any solids and by the evening of the date, she was exhausted, malnourished but thin.
The instant she got back from the date, she disappeared into Amanda’s room where they went over every single second of the evening, covering everything from what Bip wore, to word for word recitations of what he said and what his facial expressions were as he was saying them.
The next day, Saffy kept her handphone glued to her side and checked it every two seconds for a missed call or a message from Bip. By lunchtime, she was a complete mess.
“He’s probably busy in meetings,” she told Sharyn.
“He’s got a very stressful job,” she Facebooked all 345 of her friends.
“Maybe he lost my number?” she asked Ah Chuan, our cleaning lady.
“You don’t think he’s been in an accident, do you?” she asked me.
“I have a really bad feeling about this Bip Bam Bong,” Amanda muttered after the first 36 hours had come and gone without a squeak from Saffy’s date. “You’d think though that she’d recognise the signs by now. This isn’t her first date!”
But here’s the thing: dating is a bit like giving birth. It can be so freaking painful. But once it’s over, and you’ve recovered, you kind of forget how icky it was the first time round. So you go again. And again. It’s not that you never learn, but I figure it’s nature’s way of making sure you keep dating, when the natural instinct is just to stay home for the rest of your life. Otherwise: hasta la vista to the human race.
Saffy says she doesn’t care. She’s decided to grocery shop online.
She’s also been crying a lot.